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Excerpt from A. Toaff, Pasque di sangue, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2008, 
Il edizione. Postfazione, pp. 363-398 


Trials and Historical Methodology. 
In defence of Pasque di Sangue 

Even before my Pasque di Sangue appeared in the bookshops 
- and then immediately thereafter by critics who had not even 
read the book - I was attacked with extreme violence in Italy, 
Israel and the United States for what I had written, and not 
only on scientific grounds, but also and above ali on ethical and 
politicai ones. I do not presume my book to be without defects, 
but I deem unjustified the harsh attacks to which it has been 
subject: ali the more so in a country like Italy, where criticai 
pillorying is unknown, and where books of a scientific validity 
indubitably inferior to mine have been published and reviewed 

Here I intend to answer the criticisms brought against me 
by historians, but only those criticisms which have been directed 
at my research methodology, my selection and use of sources, 
the legitimacy of my hypotheses, and the conclusions that I have 
drawn. I shall do so in detailed and documented manner in order 
to avoid possible - unintentional or deliberate - misunderstand- 
ings. As lamented by a learned rabbi of nineteenth-century 
Ancona, "words issue from your mouth, they fly away with the 
wind, they reach the ears of your neighbours. Those who love 
you will bear what you say, those who wish ili of you will bear 
what they want to bear". 


To forestali ali possible misinterpretations, I shall summarize 
the subject and the scope of my research. First I shall clarify 
that I have no doubts that the so-called "ritual homicides or 
infanticides" pertain to the realm of myth; they were not rites 

2 Afterword 

practised by the Jewish communities living and working in the 
German-speaking lands or in the North of Italy, and of which 
they were accused in the Middle Ages and the periods thereaf- 
ter. That of ritual murder is and always has been a slanderous 
stereotype. Nevertheless, one cannot exclude the possibility that 
certain criminal acts, disguised as crude rituals, were indeed 
committed by extremist groups or by individuals demented by 
religious mania and blinded by desire for revenge against those 
considered responsible for their people's sorrows and tragedies. 
However, the sole and problematic support for this hypothesis 
are confessions extracted with the violence of torture and tor- 
ment, and whose truthfulness is entirely to be demonstrated. 

That said, I wish to specify that the principal aim of my re- 
search was to investigate the role of the so-called 'blood culture' 
in the German-speaking Jewish community, as in the Christian 
society that surrounded it. This was a manifold, therapeutic, 
magical, propitiatory, alchemic role which flouted the strict 
biblical and rabbinic prohibitions on the consumption of blood. 
In substance, I sought to investigate how, in this regard as well, 
practice shaped by external influences modified the norm, and 
to determine its consequences, unforeseen or predictable, for the 
Jews' openly conflictual relationship with the Christian commu- 
nity. In other words, I intended to reconstruct and revivify the 
popular beliefs of mediaeval Ashkenazi Judaism: an underground 
world, awash with superstition and magic, and animated by vis- 
ceral anti-Christianism; a world which, more or less intentionally, 
has until recently been left in oblivion. 

The ampie body of documentation on the trial held in Trent on 
the infanticide of the child Simon (1475) enabled me to conduct 
detailed examination of the confessions made by the accused Jews. 
I considered whether these confessions - also hearing in mind 
that they had been extracted under torture - comprised elements 
referable to the mentality, traditions and rites of those Jews, as 
regards both their daily lives and their celebration of festivals, in 
particular Passover. On the basis of significant comparisons and 
cross-checks with the Jewish sources, I reached the conclusion that 
there was solid evidence to suggest that a magical and symbolic use 
of blood, dried and reduced to powder, had with time, and despite 
the opposition of the rabbis, become an integrai part of particular 
rites and liturgies performed to celebrate Passover. The image that 
emerges from an important body of Jewish documentation, recently 

Trials and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 3 

published by Israel Yuval, is confirmed by the account provided 
by the accused of Trent, which clearly indicates that this image 
characterized groups of Ashkenazi extremists, whose numbers, 
however, are not easy to quantify. These groups, which belonged 
to the German Judaism ravaged by the traumas of the crusades, 
massacres and forced baptisms, expressed their hatred of Christian- 
ity in the so-called "ritual of curses" enacted during the Passover 
feast. According to my hypothesis, which I believe is borne out by 
significant evidence, these ritualized anathemas were thought to 
acquire terrible magical force when grains of powdered Christian 
blood were symbolically dissolved in the wine, turning it into the 
blood of Edom, or Christianity, the relentless persecutor against 
which the curses were directed. On conclusion of the anathematiz- 
ing liturgy, the poUuted wine was thrown away, without passing 
the lips of the celebrants. But between this dried blood used in the 
rite - blood which originated from unknown 'donors', alive and 
well, and mostly belonging to indigent families - and alleged ritual 
murders there was no relationship whatsoever save in the minds of 
judges (and not only those of Trent) as they endeavoured to prove 
the blood accusation against the Jews. Through their tendentious 
interpretations, the magical, therapeutic, alchemic, propitious or 
maleficent use of blood served to give plausible support to the 
deadly blood libel. 

It is at this point that I assert my view that scientific research 
- in history as well - cannot be subject to any prior condition- 
ing imposed by ideological doctrine or by politicai opportunism. 
There is consequently no sector of historical research in which 
the scholar cannot enter for fear that even mere hypotheses may 
run counter to what is deemed politically correct and is gener- 
ally approved. Otherwise the principles of freedom and progress 
that underpin scientific inquiry and its ability to disrupt existing 
paradigms will be severely impaired. The search for historical 
truth cannot and must not be subservient to considerations of 
politicai expediency. Nor can it be conditioned by the risk that 
its findings may be distorted and exploited. However, once his- 
torians enter the 'minefield' that they have chosen to investigate, 
it is their duty to interpret the documents correctly, to bring new 
sources to light, or to re-read ones already known from new and 
scientifically plausible standpoints. And they must support their 
hypotheses with arguments whose robustness must constantly be 

4 Afterword 

When the intention is to conduct research into Jewish his- 
tory, the problems become especially complex. If the researcher 
does not want to produce a predictable apologia or to add yet 
another brick to the a-temporal and hackneyed reconstruction 
of the past, there arises the real and intimidating danger of the 
anti-Semitism, infinite distortions, generalizations in bad faith, 
and hatred for Jews and Israel today so fraught with menace. So 
is the game worth the candle? My answer is, despite everything, 
unequivocally in the affirmative. Knowing the real history of the 
Jews (not of Judaism) in both its positive and controversial as- 
pects, and abandoning the narrative of the Vale of Tears where 
the victims are always the same, can only serve to strengthen 
Jewish identity. I refer, not to the virtual and edifying identity 
projected as benevolent - and sometimes indeed invented by 
enlightened sectors of society - but to an active and effective 
identity in history; a vigorous identity which emerges in history 
with ali its errors and inevitable contradictions, and is extraneous 
to artificial or instrumentai schematisms. 

Paradoxically, among those who openly oppose this historical 
viewpoint, besides those who care for Jews and seek to embrace 
them, sometimes suffocatingly, there are many Jews themselves 
who view the historian's work with suspicious, if not downright 
disapprovai, As Yosef Haim Yerushalmi has acutely observed, 
"those Jews who stili try to remain within the charmed circle 
of tradition, or who bave recently joined it, consider the work 
of the historian to be entirely irrelevant: they do not want the 
historicity of the past, but rather its eternai, immutable contem- 
poraneousness"^ I consequently stress that it is not possible to 
charge those who seriously intend to conduct research in Jewish 
history with outright rejection of the anti-historical currents in 
modem Judaism, driven by worries which, though legitimate, are 
entirely extraneous to the work of the historian. Dialogue with 
these currents may usefuUy take place in other arenas, but not 
in that of scientific research. 

I briefly mention the mass media, with their interest in the 
abnormal and the scandalous, and which condition large part of 
public opinion on topics about which it is often ignorant and 
demands to know the gist immediately. In this situation, the 
art of presenting a book without bothering to read it becomes 
consummate. As Pierre Bayard {Comment parler des livres que 
l'on n' a pas lusì, Paris, 2007) has recently wittily written, ali 

Trials and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 5 

it takes is to read the cover, imagine the contents of the hook, 
and read a review of it hastily written by someone who may or 
may not have read the text, to provoke debate, prompt academic 
conferences, and incite intervention by politicians and men of 
the church or synagogue. A historical study - which should be 
examined and judged by practitioners using the tools of their 
profession - becomes easy and desirable prey for know-it-alls 
in search of scandal and high sales. The historian's complicity 
in arousing media uproar for promotional purposes is entirely 
counter-productive because it nullifies his professional seriousness. 
Libraries and archives, seminars and lecture halls are perhaps 
less attractive than television studios or newspaper editorial of- 
fices, but they are indubitably the only naturai environment for 
the historian: externally to them, historians move like fish out 
of water, losing the tools and language of their work, and with 
audiences inevitably different from those that they intended to 


It has been widely argued that the records of inquisitional 
trials, conducted amid secrecy and arbitrariness, and with the 
aberrant and systematic use of torture to extract contrived and 
symmetrical confessions, can at most be used to document per- 
secution and the mentality of the persecutors. The depositions of 
the convicted are - it is maintained - obviously unreliable because 
they have been obtained through the dreadful power of torture, 
a device capable of extorting confessions to anything whatever. 
Granting even a patina of reliability to the confessions of Jews 
in trials on the blood accusation would be like believing in the 
guilt of the witches (who inherited the stereotype) accused of 
nocturnal flights astride broomsticks, and of obscene couplings 
with the devil. 

Yet outright dismissal of trial documents and confessions 
extracted under torture is only apparently possible, like the profit- 
able reference to witches. In fact, while obviously condemning a 
cruel and despicable inquisitorial device (unfortunately stili used 
today), one may legitimately ask whether the tortured always lied, 
and whether they confessed always and only what the torturers 
wanted to bear. In other words, although the confessions ex- 

6 Aftenvord 

torted by the judges and by the investigators were not generally 
truthful, can we say that they were always false? By dismissing 
out of hand the validity of confessions obtained under torture, 
one runs the risk of invalidating large part of the studies - also 
excellent and recent - on heresies and heretics almost entirely 
based on trial records^. 

And then how should we treat those cases in which the 
accused did not confirm the accusations even when they were 
tortured? Consider the example of Roper, known as Schneider 
Jùd, a Christian tailor friend to the Jews of Trent, and who fre- 
quented their homes. He was arrested with the others accused 
and then repeatedly subjected to vicious torture by the judges 
in order to extract a confession. Yet the good German admitted 
nothing because, I believe, he knew nothing, with the consequence 
that the judges were forced to release him. Must we say that in 
this case the Christian tailor's physical constitution was more 
robust than that of the Jews, so that he was able to withstand 
the torment of torture without confessing? Or must we assume 
with Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia {Trent 1475. A Ritual Murder Trial, 
New Haven, Conn., 1992) that the tailor's deep affection for the 
Jewish families gave him sufficient strength to bear the suffering? 
It seems hardly likely. 

Furthermore, in other cases of considerable importance, a 
large - and often the most accredited - part of Jewish historiog- 
raphy treats the confessions of torture victims in the diametrically 
opposite manner, granting them a plausibility and credibility 
with extraordinary implications. I refer to the trials mounted by 
the Iberian Inquisition against the New Christians, the so-called 
'Marranos', accused of being crypto-Jews. Over the centuries, 
thousands of Spaniards and Portuguese were brought before the 
dreaded ecclesiastical courts, subjected to repeated torture, and 
forced to confess. Many were cruelly executed and their bodies 
burned in the auto da fé, the victims of a perverse system which 
permitted no valid legai defence. Here too there were serial de- 
nunciations, and confessions were detailed and consistent. And 
here too the trial records are almost the only documents that 
inform us about the Marrano heresy, whether it actually existed 
or was presumed. 

Yet some of the foremost Jewish historians have expressed 
no doubts on the matter. The confessions of the accused, even 
though they suffered excruciating torment, faithfully testified 

Trials and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 1 

to their secret rites and to their complete and unyielding Juda- 
ism (which was precisely what the inquisitors wanted them to 
confess). Thus Yitzhak Baer {A History of the ]ews in Christian 
Spain, Philadelphia, Pa., 1961) has fully endorsed the romantic 
and stereotyped thesis that a heroic, underground Judaism 
emerges from the documents of the Inquisition. The trials con- 
sequently evinced "that most of the conversos were real Jews", 
that ''conversos and Jews constituted the same people, united by 
links of religion, destiny and messianic faith", and that "in es- 
sence, the Inquisition was correct in its reading of the conversos' 

The confessions and testimonies contained in these records breathe a 
nostalgie yearning for the national homeland, both earthly and heavenly, 
a yearning for ali things, great and small, sanctified by the national tradi- 
tion, and for something even greater, which had created the people and 
maintained it in life'. 

However, there are scholars who have cast serious doubts 
on the plausibility of this idyllic reconstruction of the Jewish- 
Converso heresy. The Portuguese historian Antonio Jose Saraiva 
{Inquisigao and Cristaos Novos, Oporto, 1969) has vigorously 
argued that the true purpose of the Holy Office was to 'manu- 
facture' Judaizers rather than destroy them. Almost ali of the 
Inquisition's victims, tortured and self-confessed heretics, were 
instead sincere Catholics entirely extraneous to Jewish practices"*. 
But Saraiva's conclusions have been generally and deliberately 
ignored, or else vehemently contested by Jewish historiography^. 
Before Saraiva, a Jewish historian, Benzion Netanyahu (TheMar- 
ranos of Spain, New York, 1966), obtained similar research results, 
which induced him to conclude that the Conversos were wholly 
alien to the practices of Judaism. Those Marranos indicted and 
tortured would have confessed to whatever the Inquisition wanted. 
Netanyahu's counter-mainstream thesis, intended to dispel the 
myth of the Marranos' Jewishness, led to his virtual banishment 
from the Israeli academic community: only in America could he 
find a publisher for his studies''. 

Also Anna Foa (Ebrei d'Europa dalla peste nera all'emancipazione, 
Bari, 1992) has acknowledged the problems surrounding the 
inquisitional trials instituted to eradicate the alleged Marrano 
heresy. She aptly enquires whether admissions extracted by tor- 

8 Afterword 

ture could reflect the reality, or whether they merely testified io 
the repressive fantasies of the judges. But she also stresses their 
importance, indeed gives them absolute priority as sources, "be- 
cause they are substantially the only ones able to give voice to the 
protagonists". Finally, however, prompted by Eliezer Gutwirth's 
studies on the confessions of the Spanish Marranos before the 
Inquisition, Foa regards them as by and large reliable - and thus 
plainly contradicts herself. 

The trials of the Inquisition demonstrate - with greater or lesser ve- 
racity - that the New Christians remained secretly faithful to the religion 
of their fathers; and they bring to light comphcity and mutuai protection 
between Jews and Conversos [...]. The ancient networks of friendship 
and kinship had survived forced conversion. Jews and New Christians 
continued to share customs, memories, and even the use of Hebrew (pp. 
128, 315-6). 

What, therefore, accounts for this disparity in the scholarly 
treatment of confessions extorted by torture? Did the Spanish 
and Portuguese inquisitions use methods less harsh than those 
of the judges in Trent? Or must we believe that, for unknown 
reasons, the accused put to torture by Hinderbach only told lies, 
whereas those stretched on the rack by the Iberian inquisitors 
told truths?^ 

One gains the impression that numerous scholars propound 
the reassuring thesis that it is not an error to accept the reality 
of accusations deemed to be ennobling: for instance, the accusa- 
tion that the conversos secretly adhered to the religion of their 
forefathers despite the violence and persecution to which they 
were subjected. But it is a grave error to give the slightest plausi- 
bility to charges which today strike us as abhorrent because they 
concerned the magical and superstitious use of blood, or rituals 
based on invective, malediction and exorcism. These are therefore 
choices made on ethical grounds, rather than being correct and 
consistent interpretations of the source materials^. 

On the other hand there is the position of reputable researchers, 
like Adriano Prosperi, whose treatments of the inquisitional trials 
against Jews and conversos seem whoUy coherent. Consequently, 
I fear that in their opinion the trials merely reflected the stere- 
otypes and preconceptions of the Christian society represented by 
the judges. Consequently, they maintain, Jewish history generally 
coincides with the history of anti-Semitism, in which the Jews 

Trials and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 9 

constantly occupy the passive and wretched role of the victims. 

Prosperi therefore agrees with Saraiva that the Iberian In- 
quisition was only a relentless 'factory' of Jews and Judaizers, "a 
machine that made money by imposing a bureaucratic identity of 
Jewishness on victims forced to confess that they were what they 
were not" The trials of the Marranos can at most inform us about 
the ideologies and the mentality of the inquisitors; in no wise can 
they be taken to document the lives, habits, and thought processes 
of the defendants. Wherever Jews were brought to inquisitional 
trial there loomed the dreadful spectre of the Shoah, and with it 
pressure to express contrition and repentance towards what has 
always counted in history: Christian society. And this does not 
seem to diverge greatly from the theories expressed on the matter 
by Gavin Langmuir. 

"Since Auschwitz," writes Prosperi, "the historical problem of 
the remote origins of anti-Semitism and its cultural roots stands 
before us. It must be analysed in the often impalpable and un- 
noticed forms in which the tensions that exploded so terribly in 
the twentieth century had accumulated for centuries, in a proc- 
ess as long as the history of Europe itself". He continues: "The 
materials furnished by the Inquisition-related sources belong to 
the distant past, but at the same time they concern matters that 
stili trouble the life of the present and extend an ominous shadow 
over the future"^. 

For my part, I continue to believe in the validity of Carlo 
Ginzburg's methodological principle that even the documents 
of the persecution, such as confessions extracted under torture, 
comprise authentic fragments of the persecuted culture which the 
judges were unable entirely to erase. The so-called 'circumstantial 
paradigm' applied in the absence or scarcity of sure proof has 
enabled in the past, and stili does, a re-reading of documentation 
interrogated afresh and from different perspectives^°. However, 
there are those who maintain that Ginzburg has abandoned this 
method of investigation, and they applaud his supposed recent 
"salutary return to politicai history after so many circumstan- 
tial paradigms"^\ And perhaps those who think so are correct, 
considering that Ginzburg himself relegates the circumstantial 
paradigm to his past, calling it "a principle of method that many 
years ago inspired a research study of mine on the stereotype of 
the witches' sabbath" {Storia notturna. Una decifrazione del sabba, 
Turin, 1989). 

10 Afterword 

Granting for the sake of argument that the circumstantial 
paradigm method is stili valid, Ginzburg has accused me of com- 
mitting unpardonable errors by identifying not myths but rites in 
the documents on ritual murders, contrary io his conclusion in 
regard to the witches' sabbath^^. In other words, in Ginzburg's 
opinion, I have anachronistically adhered to the discredited 
historiography of Margaret Murray {The Witch-Cult in Western 
Europe, Oxford, 1921). Little matter that Ginzburg himself has 
been enlisted (in my view unjustly) among Murray's followers 
for what he wrote in l benandanti, amongst others by Gustav 
Henningsen (The Witches' Advocate. Basque Witchcraft and the 
Spanish Inquisition, Reno, 1980) and by Norman Cohn (Europe's 
Inner Demons, London, 1975). 

As well known, Murray, a disciple of Frazer, an English 
anthropologist and an egyptologist, argued that the descriptions 
of the sabbath contained in the witchcraft trial records were not 
introjections of hostile stereotypes suggested by the judges; rather, 
they were precise accounts of rites which had actually occurred. 
In other words, just as application of Murray's method gave cre- 
dence to the witches' nocturnal flights and diabolic couplings, 
so I have allegedly given credence to the myth of ritual murder, 
presenting it as a rite that was actually practised". As far as I 
am concerned, however, this is not how matters stand. I must 
specify once again that I too believe that so-called 'ritual murder' 
must be regarded as a myth and a calumny, not as a rite which 
pertained to the religious practices of the Jewish communities 
- not even in circumscribed historical contexts. This is regard- 
less of the fact that the rite may sometimes have had some sort 
of counterpart in the wretched reality of crimes committed by 
individuai demented by religious fanaticism [Pasque di sangue, 
p. 121 [117]). But it is wrong to believe that other specific prac- 
tices of the groups examined in my book, and which emerged 
from testimonies obtained under torture, can also be considered 
entirely equivalent to myths. 

Some years ago, the Israeli historian Israel Yuval ( 'Two Nations 
in Your Womb'. Perceptions ofjews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000) 
reconstructed the rites and particular liturgy of extremist fringe 
groups operating within the Jewish communities of Germany that 
had lived through the massacres and forced conversions of the age 
of the crusades. Yuval, who had not examined the trials in Trent, 
reconstructed the anti-Christian 'ritual of curses' performed at 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 11 

Passover by these Ashkenazi Jews. The ritual was enacted during 
the Haggadah, when the ten plagues of Egypt were recited and wine 
was rhythmically sprinkled from the chalice onto the dining table. 

The rite with its specific formulas - absent from the Passover 
liturgy of the Italian, Sephardic and Orientai Jews, besides that 
generally adopted by the Ashkenazi - emerged from the Sefer Ha- 
rokeach, the writings of rabbi Jacob Mulin Segai (Maharil), who 
also lived in Italy at the turn of the fifteenth century, and certain 
Franco-German Jewish texts which bave survived in manuscript 
form^"*. Yuval concluded by stressing that the ritual of curses in 
the Haggadah transformed the originai contents of Passover, re- 
placing those bound up with historical memory of the liberation 
from Egypt with a vision of Messianic redemption founded upon 
revenge against the Christians, "using particularly violent and 
expressions, for which one searches in vain among the Jews of 
Iberian origin"'^. 

And yet the ritual of the curses reconstructed by Yuval appears 
in identical form - with the same particular liturgy and sequence 
of operations - in the confessions made by the accused Jews in 
Trent. The implications of this finding should not be underesti- 
mated if one wishes to reconstruct the mentality of the Ashkenazi 
Jews who had moved to Trent from Germany. Moreover, as I shall 
seek to clarify further, nor is the reality of the rite of the Christian 
blood in the wine of the Passover supper a hypothesis that can be 
discarded a priori. 

I disagree with Carlo Ginzburg's comment that "those accounts 
(of alleged ritual murders) were inserted into descriptions of cer- 
emonies as familiar to the accused as, presumably, the Passover" 
was, and that "the presence of anti-Christian elements in the ritual 
described by the accused under torture" was "a generic cultural 
feature". In fact, the confessions of the accused show very clearly 
that these were not ordinary Passover ceremonies, but rather 
particular rites performed by fringe German Jewish groups char- 
acterized by a virulent anti-Christianism. 

For that matter, also in the past, the depositions made under 
torture by the accused of Trent bave been used as credible his- 
torical sources^"^. Examination of the confession by Lazzaro da 
Serravalle, a servant of Angelo da Verona, regarding the Passover 
sermon delivered by Samuele da Norimberga, reveals its centrai 
motif: the spurious birth of Jesus conceived by the Virgin during 
her menstrual period. 

12 Afterword 

As has been rightly stressed, this theme appeared only in some 
late-fifteenth and sixteenth century versions of the well-known 
anti-Christian text Toledot Yeshu, 'The Stories of Jesus': whence 
derives "the importance of the information inferred from the 
Trent trial, which at present is the earliest source that expressly 
considers Jesus to be the child of a menstruating woman", It has 
also been rightly stressed that "worthy of note is the German 
origin of the narrator, which suggests that the information also 
had the same origin"^^. It is evident that the anti-Christian confes- 
sion extracted under torture from Lazzaro da Serravalle has not, 
at least in this case, been considered to stem from interpolations 
by the biased Trent judges. Rather, it is an intact and authentic 
fragment of the mentality and culture of the Ashkenazi Jews 
brought to trial. In this regard, I do not believe that uncritical 
use has been made of unreliable, or at least suspect, sources. 

With some surprise I find that Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia agrees 
with me on the authenticity of the trial records concerning the 
anti-Christian invective and fervent profession of faith expressed 
before his torture by Israel of Brandenburg, a protagonist of the 
Trent trial. Torture is indeed the source of hatred^*. But why 
should one believe that the young German Jew's virulent hostility 
towards Christianity was not already part of the cultural heritage 
and mentality of the Jewish community to which he belonged, 
regardless of the torments to which he was subjected? 

I have repeatedly stressed that the testimonies of the accused 
in the Trent trial should not be dismissed out of hand. Instead, 
they warrant careful analysis, with suitable comparisons and ref- 
erences backing well-founded hypotheses. As has recently been 
aptly pointed out, 

historians of pre-modern Europe have routinely relied on Inquisition docu- 
ments and other archival records of trials as primary sources for years. 
Given the use of torture in medieval and early modem judicial systems, 
how one uses these systems is a tricky methodological problem. The best 
approaches, it seems to me, are those that regard archival sources (ali of 
them) as texts to be interpreted, in which authorship, intended audience, 
genre, pohtical considerations in the production and conservation of the 
material, language (both langue and parole for you structuralists), and a 
host of other factors, have to be considered in order to make sense of what 
these pieces of past writing can actually teli us. In terms of methodology, 
this seems to be the centrai question in evaluating Toaff's work, and not 
to suggest that using the trial records at ali was wrong''. 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 13 

This, also in my opinion, is the crux of the matter, not the 
uncritical and preconceived banishment of the trial sources 
considered suspect. 

Equivocai and suspect sources 

I have been accused of using in my text numerous poUuted 
testimonies of anti-Semites and converts, the latter obviously 
harbouring malice towards their previous co-religionists. In the 
first place, it is alleged that I have drawn indiscriminately on the 
'iU-famed' Dissertazione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da 
Treni (Trent, 1747) written by the Franciscan Benedetto Bonelli: 
a hagiographic text unanimously discredited by authoritative his- 

Yet I challenge those who have read my book to cite just one 
instance where I refer to the theses put forward in the Dissertazione, 
which I adjudge to be "invalidated by anti-Semitic prejudice"^°. 
Nevertheless, Bonelli's transcriptions of the Trent trial texts are 
invariably faithful and accurate. Proof is provided by the part of 
the Dissertazione already published by Quaglioni and Esposito, 
where no differences whatsoever are apparent^^ My book refers 
to these transcriptions, almost always reported by Bonelli in his 
notes, because I consider them reliable and technically accurate. 
My quotations from Bonelli therefore exclusively concern the 
Trent trial records not yet edited by Quaglioni: their forthcoming 
publication will indubitably confirm my assessment of them. 

I have foUowed the same procedure with another declaredly 
hagiographic text, that by the priest Giuseppe Divina, Storia 
del Beato Simone da Trent (Trent, 1902). Omitting entirely the 
apologetic lucubrations and anti-Semitic ravings of the Trentino 
priest, I have cited only that part of his text which, as Quagli- 
oni has already remarked, constitutes "almost a pure and simple 
paraphrase of the trial records"^^. 

Separate treatment is required for the texts of the converted 
Jews, which I have used in Pasque di Sangue in analogous manner 
as in my previous books, which were instead praised and appreci- 
ated by my critics. There are those who have sought to extend their 
censure to my coUeague EUiot Horowitz as well, accusing him of 
delving too deeply into the unreliable and tendentious literature 
of the neophytes. 

14 Afterword 

I cite the most significant example: that of the bulky conver- 
sionist text written by the Venetian Shemuel Nahmias, former 
disciple of Leon da Modena, and baptized as Giulio Morosini 
{Derekh Emunah.Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei, Rome, 1683). 
I have no hesitation in arguing that Morosini's text is of excep- 
tional importance, and is in some respects unique, because it 
preserves in detail and with absolute fidelity the rites and popular 
beliefs, even the most ancient of them, current among the Jews 
of Italy, and which would otherwise have been irretrievably lost 
to memory. It is my opinion that (aside from his personal com- 
ments prompted by evident anti-Jewish resentment) Morosini's 
recording of the Jewish religious customs is more extensive, 
detailed, and less reticent than the exaggeratedly celebrated Riti 
ebraici of Leon da Modena (Paris, 1637; Venice, 1638). 

The importance of this text, in fact, does not reside in its 
polemical, confessional or controversist theses, but rather, as 
Fausto Parente underlines, in "the author's truly ubiquitous 
knowledge of Jewish ritual"^'. Indeed, ali the foremost historians 
of Italian Jewry, from Cecil Roth to Avigdor Shulvass, have made 
ampie use of Morosini's text, considering it "a historical source 
on Jewish social life of exceptional value". No serious study on 
the manifold and significant aspects of religious anthropology on 
the Jews in Italy can ignore the Derekh Emunah without being 
severely impaired. 

The Ashkenazi between the Rhine and the Adige 

The fact that I attribute the stereotype of ritual murder to the 
Ashkenazi Jewish world on both sides of the Alps, from the Rhine 
to upper Lombardy and North-East Italy, has provoked lively 
controversy^''. But this is not my opinion alone. Ronnie Po-Chia 
Hsia himself writes that "if we construct a cultural geography of 
the blood libel in the region, the location of ritual murder trials 
coincided with the boundary of German settlements in the Alpine 
Highlands"^'. And likewise Miri Rubin unhesitatingly states that, 
as regards trials for profanation of the host, "our story deals with 
German speaking regions"^^'. 

Improper reference has been made to the writings of Alfonso 
de Espina, the confessor of Henry IV of Castile, to show that the 
blood libel was widespread in Spain as well, and not confined 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 15 

solely to the German-speaking lands^^ In fact, as I have clearly 
shown, ali the cases of presumed ritual murder reported by Al- 
fonso in his Fortalitium fidei concerned Ashkenazi communities 
in northern Italy, not the larger ones established in the Iberian 
peninsula^*^. Moreover, the judges of Trent, who presumably de- 
tested the Italian Jews no less than they loathed the Ashkenazi, 
repeatedly asked the accused why the former had never been 
accused of practising the blood rites. Is it perhaps that the Ital- 
ian Jews did not have the same sacred texts of reference, as the 
Ashkenazi of Trent seem to have suggested [quod ipsi ludei Italici 
non hahent istud in scripturis suis)ì 

I have sought to show how that German Jewish world, steeped 
in superstition and alchemic magic, traumatized by violence 
and tragedy, often lax in observing the laws of the country and 
sometimes even those of officiai Jewish ritual (halakhah), and 
suspicious of the Italians whether Jews or Christians, inevitably 
became the target of the blood libeP'. My reconstruction of the 
mentality and behaviour of the Ashkenazi Judaism of Germanie 
origin has been substantially accepted by many scholars^". But 
others, instead, have judged it with unwarranted severity: 

Toaff has his own interpretative paradigm which attributes infanticide 
and ritual murder in general not to ali Jews but only to tlie Ashkenazi. 
The Jewish world of the Germanie area, barbarized in its rituals, domi- 
nated by a superstitious faith in the therapeutic and magica! uses of 
blood, and driven by a visceral hatred of the Christian population, seems 
to him responsible for the origin of infanticide and its diffusion as far as 
the Trentino and Venetian regions. But why does he not teli us that the 
bishop Hinderbach also came from the Germanie area, and that he was 
convinced of Jews' guilt even before the trial began?'' 

And yet my book is very explicit on this point: 

The participants in this magical mental domain were not only the Jews, 
accused of witchcraft and infanticide, of ritual cannibalism and malignant 
sorcery, but also their accusers, obsessed with diabolica! apparitions and 
in Constant search of virtuous talismans and wondrous antidotes able to 
fortify and to preserve both body and soul against the devices of men and 
demons. Giovanni Hinderbach, the prince-bishop of Trento, the prime 
mover of the 1475 trials, had grown up in the Vienna of the years foUowing 
the great massacre of the Jews accused of supporting the Hussites (1421) 
and subjected by Duke Albert II to bloody vengeance as abettors of the 
heretics. Even before the infanticide of the child Simon, when Hinderbach 

16 Afterword 

had not yet acquired his officiai fame as 's courge of the murderous Jews', 
he had already manifested his disHke of them. On one occasion, indeed, 
he unhesitatingly expressed approvai of cannibalism, provided that the 
victims were Jews. On the occasion of the war of 1465 between Venice 
and Trieste, when Frederick III sought to enforce his rights over the lat- 
ter city, Hinderbach, then imperiai ambassador to the Serenissima, sang 
the praises of the Habsurg militias summoned in defence of Trieste for 
their courage and loyalty to the emperor. Quite rightly, the pious bishop 
observed, the German soldiers, rather than lay down their arms, would 
assuage their hunger by eating the flesh of cats, mice and rats, and even 
that of their compatriot Jews in the city. 

Frederick III, Burcardo di Andwil informs us, besides cultivating the math- 
ematical sciences was an ardent practitioner of astrology and necromancy, 
and for this reason was said to surround himself with Jews and Chaldeans 
dedicated to superstitious practices. But his loyal servant Hinderbach was 
no less a devotee. Magic and witchcraft, in fact, exerted an irresistible 
fascination on the humanist bishop, a friend of Enea Silvio Piccolomini. 
He likened the Jews to necromancers ever ready to perform exorcisms 
and cast spells in the service of the devil. Demons loved blood, and the 
necromancers resuscitated corpses to make lavish use in their divinations 
of blood mixed with water from springs and rivers. Hinderbach unhesi- 
tatingly claimed that the Jews were sorcerers and necromancers "because 
they kill Christian children and drink and consume their blood, as they 
did last year bere in the city of Trent, and as in many other places it has 
been discovered and proven". The practical Kabbalah performed more or 
less in secret by these Jews was likened in every respect to black magic 
and necromancy'^. 

Also as regards the problematic deposition by Giovanni da 
Feltre, the Jewish convert held in the Buonconsiglio Castle who 
denounced his erstwhile co-religionists, I have by no means cited 
the document at second band, without having had the patience to 
consult the trial records directly. In my fifth chapter, in fact, the 
text edited by Quaglioni, with the relative discussion, is amply 
reported verbatim'\ 

My book has been much criticised for its depiction of the 
troubled relationship between the Italian Jews and the Ashkenazi 
and their cultural and religious world. Yet these criticisms have 
deliberately ignored the persuasive account by Israel Yuval, ac- 
cording to which the virulent anti-Christianism of these German 
Jewish communities was their distinctive feature, Indeed, an 
entirely positive portrayal of the late-medieval Ashkenazi world 
strikes me as artificial and unconvincing, as does the unjustified 
belief in the existence of pastoral relationships between Italian 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 17 

Jews and immigrant Ashkenazi. A serious historian like Isaia 
Sonne, an expert on the Jewish reality in Italy of the Middle 
Ages and the early Modem Age, has long since debunked this 
legend, devoid of any meaningful documentation to support it. 
Yoseph Ha-Cohen (Giuseppe Sacerdoti da Voltaggio), the 
foremost Jewish chronicler of sixteenth-century Italy, assumed 
in his writings a markedly hostile attitude towards the Jews of 
Germanie origin, whom he blamed for innumerable wrongdoings, 
among them that of being the direct cause of numerous expul- 
sions and even the burning of Jewish books. Sonne explained 
the reasons for the chronicler's attitude, which he maintained 
was paradigmatic of the relationships between Italian Jews and 
the Ashkenazi. 

Yoseph Ha-Cohen takes pains to stress that the German Jews, with 
their wickedness of mind and behaviour (sic), were the cause of the crisis 
in relations between the Jews and the surrounding society in Italy. The 
attitude of the Italian Jews, particularly those of Sephardic origin, towards 
the Ashkenazi was similar to that of the Italians towards the uneducated 
German barbarians. Whenever Yoseph Ha-Cohen directs his accusations 
against the Ashkenazi, he is careful to specify the Jewish sources from which 
he has drawn his information [...] almost as if to forestali the accusation 
that he has used the propaganda of the anti-Semites. For this reason, he 
has his claims corroborated by Jewish witnesses above ali suspicion. 

Elsewhere we come across rare sources and Jewish documents relative 
to facts and events that were to be disclosed only to few persons, because 
to a large extent, it seems, they were liable to feed the propaganda of the 
anti-Semites. It is for this reason that they have been deliberately consigned 
to oblivion by the officiai historians of our people. For the opposite reason, 
these accounts have been preserved in the non-Jewish documentation. 
Among Jews, reports of these facts have been handed down across the 
generations to only the select few, who have made use of them when they 
deem it opportune. 

Isaia Sonne wrote these notes in volume no. XXII of the 
Hebrew Union College Annual issued in Cincinnati in 1949. In 
1954 he republished them in Jerusalem as an appendix to his 
classic essay on the Jews of Italy during the age of the Counter- 
Reformation, ¥rom Paulus IV to Pius V. His instructive finding 
is that, already in the sixteenth century, the Jews practised rigid 
self-censorship in their accounts of Jewish history, erasing or 
omitting facts and events that might tarnish the image of the 
Jewish people which they wished to leave for posterity. The in- 

18 Afterword 

tention, quite rightly, was to ensure that the Jews themselves did 
not furnish the anti-Semites with further and effective weapons 
for their evil designs. The cui prodest criterion therefore also 
applied in the writing of the history of the Jews, and officiai 
Jewish historiography complied rigidly with this precautionary 

The blood. Myths or rites? 

As well known, the biblical prohibition on the consumption 
of blood is absolute and peremptory (Lev. 17, 10-12, Deut., 
23-25 etc). Jewish ritual, halakhah, from the Mishnah and the 
Talmud, then brought the prohibition under a rigid and detailed 
set of rules designed to prevent even inadvertent breach of the 
provision, which is considered one of the foundations of Jew- 
ish identity. The accusation by the Trent judges that the Jews 
made use of blood, that they consumed it during the Passover 
supper, and that they committed ritual infanticides to obtain it, 
thus appear utterly baseless, a detestable calumny against those 
who had been branded as irremediably guilty from the outset. 
Many scholars bave willingly accepted this conclusion, which 
spares them from awkward and difficult investigations into the 

Piero Camporesi, in an excellent study of twenty years ago 
{(Il sugo della vita. Simbolismo e magia del sangue, Milan, 1988), 
illustrated how in popular medicine blood, and the blood of 
children especially, was an indispensable or important ingredient 
in the preparation of ointments, salves, electuaries, and magic 
philtres of well-tested efficacy. The most expert chemists knew 
how to carefuUy prepare and treat blood so that it could fuUy 
manifest its admirable therapeutic qualities. AUegedly, young 
blood, ingested in the correct doses, was an infallible means to 
rejuvenate the body. 

I bave tried in my hook to show that magic, popular medi- 
cine, superstition and alchemy slowly but profoundly spread 
from Christian society to broad sections - certainly the least 
educated ones - of the Ashkenazi community (to which the Jews 
of Trent belonged), circumventing or flouting even the strictest 
norms of Jewish ritual, above ali the blood prohibition'"*. At the 
heart of the West, therefore, Christians and Jews unhesitatingly 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 19 

consumed animai and human blood, cooked, dried and reduced 
to powder, to which they attributed extraordinary magical pow- 
ers, both exorcistic and therapeutic. What to us today appears 
repellent, at that time was irresistibly attractive. Likewise, the 
use of oils and balms extracted from fetid mummified corpses, 
medicaments made from the powdered skuUs of hanged men, 
unguents and ointments manufactured from human fat, found 
no impediment in practice against their use, neither among the 
Christians nor among the Jews. 

In light of the pioneering research on the matter by Daniel 
Sperber {Minhaghe' Israel, "The Customs of the Jewish People", 
Jerusalem, 1991), I bave reached the conclusion that, as regards 
German Judaism, long-standing customs were often able to avoid, 
and sometimes completely to nuUify, the biblical and talmudic 
rules. The rabbis were therefore forced, a posteriori and sometimes 
reluctantly, to come to terms with a phenomenon of which they 
disapproved and seek to mitigate its disruptive consequences'^. 

The segullot - secret formularies of remedies and medica- 
ments compiled and circulated by experts on the practical Kab- 
halah in the Middle Ages and the early Modem Age - contained 
a wide array of blood-based recipes used for haemostasis and 
orai transfusions, and whose magical and therapeutic efficacy 
was taken for granted. In the lists of 'secrets compiled by Elia 
Loans, the ^aal Shem of Worms, Shabbatai Lipshiitz, Sacharja 
Plongiany Simoner, and by many other Ashkenazi spagyricists, 
dried young human blood was used as an astringent powder with 
extraordinary curative powers when applied to the circumcision 
wound. Ibex blood was prescribed to cure epilepsy; in which 
case also recommended was a virgin's menstrual blood dried and 
dissolved in wine. Rabbit's blood served to induce pregnancy, 
while again the menstrual blood of young girls staunched exces- 
sive menstrual flow"^. Love philtres were prepared with human 
blood extracted from the suitor's little finger, dissolved in wine 
and administered to the woman resisting courtship. 

It has been objected that the texts of the segullot cited in my 
book date to a period later than that of the Trent trials, i.e. to 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; while the ritual responses 
cited among my sources, though originating from the same geo- 
graphical area, are datable to the eighteenth century. Yet those 
with the slightest familiarity with such formularies of popular 
medicine know that the same recipes were repeated unchanged 

20 Afterword 

over time (and for centuries). Evident proof of this is provided 
by the use of the powdered blood of children (mainly Jewish, 
not Christians) as an effective haemostatic for the circumcision 
wound. Such use was recommended by the segullot formularies 
of the Baal Shem of Worms, Lipshùtz and Simoner, and it was 
already being widely adopted in the Ashkenazi communities of 
the fifteenth century (both in Germany and Italy) - as for that 
matter stated by the accused of Trent, in testimonies which can 
be regarded as entirely credible. It therefore not surprising to find 
that large part of these ancient recipes (rarely those involving the 
use of blood) are stili today re-published in Israel for a specific, 
but by no means restricted, public. This is a substantial sector 
of the population (often tending towards extreme orthodoxy, 
but not always) for whom long-standing superstitions and faith 
in the empirical remedies of the Kabbalah are stili of consider- 
able importance. As regards the ritual responses, their authors, 
among them Jacob Reischer of Prague (1670-1734), cited the 
custom practised since time immemorial in the Germanie lands 
in order that the orai ingestion of blood (in this case animai 
blood) could be permitted for therapeutic purposes, also in the 
case of less serious illness. Indeed, the usage came to be declared 
outright minhagh Israel (that is, a "Jewish custom Consolidated 
in time") with validity even if it conflicted with the precept of 
the Toray^. 

As said, the rabbis were forced, often willy-nilly and a pos- 
teriori, to accept a practice that clashed with religious rules. 
Knowing that they could not change a deeply-rooted custom, 
they chose the only option available to them: that of limiting the 
consequences of a blatant violation of the dictates of the Torah. 
To do so, they decided to allow only, and in minimal quantities, 
the consumption of blood after it had been dried and drained of 
ali dietary connotations ("when it has been dried to the point of 
its transformation into almost a piece of wood, ali moisture hav- 
ing been eliminated therefrom")^^. The Jewish blood merchants, 
who, like their Christian coUeagues, travelled the roads of Europe 
with their waxed saddle bags containing dried blood, gave their 
customers a rabbinic certificate {kasherut) guaranteeing that the 
product was completely desiccated and no longer belonged to 
the category of food. The powdered blood could therefore be 
used throughout the year for curative or magical purposes, as 
seen fit, with no fear of violating any rabbinical interdict. In the 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 21 

case of ointments and syrups concocted from mummified bodies, 
the rabbis obviously allowed their use when the raw material 
had been extracted from the corpses of gentiles, not of Jews^'. 
Hence, Israel of Brandenburg did not stray far from the truth 
in his deposition before the judges of Trent, when he declared 
that the consumption of blood was permitted only if it was the 
blood of non-Je-ws"*". 

Another - apparently decisive - objection raised by my severe 
and meticulous critics is that the texts which I bave cited deal 
with animai and not human blood, which casts serious doubt on 
the importance and relevance of the Jewish documents in ques- 
tion. If the ingestion of animai blood was generally forbidden and 
allowed only for therapeutic purposes, the prohibition applied a 
fortiori to the case of human blood. The passage from the blood 
of the animals to that of humans is thus entirely arbitrary and 
contrary to logie. 

Besides the fact that, as my study has shown in detail, the 
formularies of empirical remedies and the Ashkenazi seguUot 
comprised numerous recipes based on young blood and men- 
strual blood, to be administered dried and dissolved in wine, 
it is that 'a fortiori that leaves me somewhat perplexed, for it 
demonstrates the absolute unfamiliarity of my critics with the 
Jewish ritualistic texts. In fact, the prohibition on consuming 
animai blood was a great deal more stringent than the ban on 
human blood. It is written in the Torah (Lev. 7, 26) that "you 
shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animai, in 
any of your dwellings". From this the ritualists bave deduced 
that, whilst the prohibition on animai blood was considered a 
negative precept {lo ta'aseh) directly prescribed by the Torah, the 
ban on human blood belonged in the category of the affirmative 
precepts Caseh), of lesser gravity, established by the rabbis. This 
is the opinion of Maimonides. The celebrated French exegetist 
Rashì (R, Shelomoh Izchaki), who lived at Troyes in the eleventh 
century, explained that the only reason for the ban on ingest- 
ing human blood was that it might be erroneously exchanged 
with the animai blood prohibited by the Torah. The followers 
of Rashì, the Franco-German Tossafists, even went so far as to 
allow the consumption of human blood if it was evident and 
verified that it was not animai blood''^ Entirely coherent with 
these premises, therefore, was the confession made to the Trent 
judges by Lazzaro da Serravalle, for whom the biblical prohibi- 

22 Afterword 

tion on blood concerned only that of animals {quod lex Dei [...] 
loquitur de sanguine bestiarutnY^. 

In a forthcoming essay on the subject, Rabbi Elkana Hild- 
esheimer, on the basis of these and other data drawn from the 
rabbinic texts, concludes that: 

the Ashkenazi, like other Jews, ate foods not permitted by the rite, some- 
times requesting and obtaining dubious rabbinical dispensations. This also 
held in the case of blood, when the ban on consuming human blood was 
treated with a laxity certainly greater than that shown towards the blood 
of animals and birds. Not only was the consumption of human blood less 
repellent than it seems to us today, but not infrequently also the rabbis 
were forced to admit its consumption"*'. 

Numerous and reliable Jewish testimonies on the ingestion 
of animai and human blood to cure the soul and the body con- 
sequently corroborate the confessions made on the matter by the 
Jews accused in Trent. But it is a long, and anything but automatic, 
step from the therapeutic and even magical and alchemic use of 
blood to its transformation into the centrai symbol of Passover 
ceremonies tied to alleged ritual murders. We may immediately 
dismiss the hypothesis, even if only theoretical, that the Jews (in 
Trento or elsewhere) committed atrocious crimes to obtain the 
blood of a Christian infant and celebrate the Passover rites. At 
the same time we may also do away with the apparently linked 
assumption that, once we bave rejected the stereotype of the 
ritual murder, we must perforce conclude that the Jews did not 
use human blood during the Passover ritual. And here I refer to 
those Jews, animated by an ardent, visceral, and justified hatred 
for Christianity and its representatives (the Edom of the sacred 
texts) guilty of indiscriminate massacres, forced baptisms, and 
abductions of Jewish children. 

As we bave seen, those Ashkenazi Jews had transformed the 
centrai meaning of the Passover Haggadah into a vision of venge- 
ance on Edom - Christianity - heir to the perfidious Pharaoh, 
and of redemption constructed by God upon its ruins. Besides 
the liturgical invocation of Ashkenazi origin for the God of Israel 
{shefokh) to pour down bis wrath upon the peoples that did not 
recognize him, and destroy them, Israel Yuval has reconstructed 
'the ritual of curses' with which these extremist fringe groups 
accompanied recitation of the ten plagues of Egypt, opening 
with dam, the word that meant 'blood'. The rabbi Shalom from 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 23 

Wiener Neustadt, as well as the already-cited Maharil, stressed 
the anti-Christian meaning of the sprinkling of wine on the table 
during recital of the plagues of Egypt, which made the 'ritual of 
curses' a ceremony peculiar to extremist Jewish groups of the 
Ashkenazi diaspora. 

When the ten plagues of Egypt are named, each time the finger is 
dipped into the cup o£ wine standing before (the head of household), 
who pours a little onto the table [...] and intones "From these curses 
may God save us". The reason is that the four cups of wine (which must 
be drunk during the recitation of the Haggadah) augur salvation for the 
Jews and damnation for the nations of the world. Therefore (the head of 
household) spills wine from the glass with his finger, thus signifying that 
we Jews shall be saved from those curses, which shall instead be visited 
upon others"*"*. 

The rite is explained in the Rokeach: "wine is sprinkled 
towards the outside (on the table) in correspondence to the 
sixteen faces of the avenging sword of God"**^. The accused in 
the Trento trial, who practised the ritual of curses, confessed 
under torture that, before its recitation, the master of the house 
opened the glass vial containing dried human blood ("blood of 
a Christian child" they specified, or rather the judges dictated) 
and dropped a pinch of it into the cup containing the wine. He 
then poured the wine onto the table, reciting the list of the ten 
curses against Edom, the Christians. Finally, without drinking 
the wine, he poured the remainder of it into a basin or into a 
cracked earthenware pot, and threw it away. 

My hypothesis is that, whereas the specific statement in the 
confessions that the blood had been taken from a Christian child 
- presumably sacrificed for the purpose - is a blatant interpolation 
by the judges intent on proving the guilt of the Jews, the first part 
of the description (relative to the use of Christian blood during 
the Passover supper) is not at ali improbable. As the curses were 
recited, for the head of the household to dissolve some grains of 
powdered Christian blood in the wine (the same dried blood which 
served numerous other therapeutic and propitiatory purposes 
during the year) was to symbolically transform the contents of 
the wine glass into the blood of Edom. This gesture would have 
given potency to the curses, conferring them wondrous efficacy, 
and reinvigorated the terrible curses which, as Yuval has written, 
"constituted per se a destructive magic born from a violent and 

24 Afterword 

aggressive messianism"**''. Then the wine, transformed into the 
blood of the pernicious and accursed Edom was sprinkled on 
the table and the remainder thrown on the rubbish tip, or into 
the Street, without being drunk by the diners. 

The procedure was no different - although of diverse signifi- 
cance - from the ceremony of the circumcision wine as recently 
interpreted by Lawrence A. Hoffman. During the ceremony of 
the milah, some drops of the circumcised child's blood mixed 
with the wine had the power to turn the latter into blood. It 
was then (unlike the blood of the Pesach curses) given to drink 
to the child, his mother and the circumciser, with propitiatory 
and beneficent significance"*^. If there is some basis of truth, 
or at least plausibility, to my hypothesis concerning the blood 
accusation - that the Jews used Christian blood at Passover - 
then we are dealing with rites, and not myths, performed in the 
Middle Ages, on both sides of the Alps, by a minority of Jews 
of German origin. In other words, whilst the ritual murder was 
and remains a myth, the use of blood in the Passover liturgy 
of curses against the Christians was, as I bave sought to show, 
an idiosyncratic and deviant rite practised by fringe Ashkenazi 

As we bave seen, rather than endeavouring in vain to eradi- 
cate a ritual of which they disapproved, the Ashkenazi rabbis 
sought to limit its diffusion and consequences, while awaiting 
better times (which eventually came). Some of them (David Tebel 
Sprinz of Bamberg, Moshe Jodentneister of Halle and Shimon 
Katz of Frankfurt-on-Maine are mentioned in the confessions of 
the accused of Trento) pressed for less affluent Jews and those 
without family dependants to be exonerated from the problem- 
atic ritual of the curses and the blood. They also recommended 
that no more than a minute quantity of dried blood, the size of 
a lentil, should be dissolved in the wine (which in any case was 
not to be drunk). Once again, practice prevailed over the norm 
in Jewish behaviour, and the rabbis restricted their efforts to 
saving the saveable, or else turned a blind eye. 

It seems superfluous to point out that there was no relationship 
whatsoever - neither coincidental nor consequential - between 
the so-called 'ritual of blood and curses' performed by these Jews 
on the first two evenings of the Passover and ritual infanticide, 
notwithstanding the judges' efforts to insinuate its existence. In 
the rural reality of mediaeval Germany, where everyday life was 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 25 

suffused with alchemical and magical fantasies, Jewish house- 
holds, like Christian ones, often had an oilcloth pouch or vial 
of blood (preferably young, coagulated or dried) recommended 
for use in diverse eventualities, true or imaginary, and not solely 
for the treatment of physical illnesses. Thos who 'donated' that 
blood (always upon payment) were alive and flourishing when 
they did so, and they belonged to indigent families in search of 
easy earnings. 

As Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia has stressed {The Myth of Ritual 
Murder. Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany, New Haven, 
Conn., 1988) "for an impoverished father, for those in need of 
money like him, blood, even of his own child, was a product 
like any other to sell". On very rare occasions, a father, in a 
clumsy attempt to extract blood from the carotid artery, would 
accidentally provoke the death of his child. In such cases the 
tragic accident was foUowed by exemplary punishment of the 
culprit, despite the involuntary nature of the act"*^. 


The confessions of the accused of Trent sometimes contain 
phrases in Hebrew uttered in Ashkenazi pronunciation which the 
trial notaries transliterated with numerous errors and inaccura- 
cies. In my book I have reconstructed them for the first time, 
finding that they were often instances of known anti- Christian 
invective, and sometimes unusual and hitherto unknown liturgi- 
cal formulas, which, according to those Jews, accompanied rites 
which had to do with the blood accusation. There follows a 
significant sample: "Thus may our enemies be destroyed"; "the 
hanged man, Jesus the heretic"; "in contempt and shame of the 
hanged Jesus, and may this befall ali our enemies"; "you have 
been crucified and pierced like Jesus the hanged, in ignominy 
and shame like Jesus'"*^. 

As will be seen, these phrases in Hebrew raise a number 
of unavoidable problems relative to the intention that they 
expressed, and to the context in which they were allegedly ut- 
tered. Whoever heard them and transcribed them could not have 
known Hebrew; for otherwise he would not have rendered them 
almost incomprehensible by riddling them with errors. For the 
same reason, I do not give credence to the suggestion that an 

26 Afterword 

apostate (perhaps the former Ashkenazi Jew Giovanni da Feltre) 
had furnished skewed counsel on this point to the judges so that 
the confessions extracted under torture might be more credible'". 
In this case, the texts would have been transcribed correctly or 

Moreover, that the judges and notaries of the Trent trials were 
ignorant of both Hebrew and Yiddish is demonstrated by the 
fact that a number of letters exchanged among Jewish families 
of northern Italy were transcribed with numerous errors and 
attached to the trial records. The content of these letters must 
have been obscure to the Trent judges; otherwise they would 
have realized that they starkly contradicted what they were so 
vehemently seeking to prove. In fact, the writers of the letters 
in Yiddish bewailed the unspeakable sufferings of the Jews of 
Regensburg "victims, like those of Trent, of the ignoble calumny 
of ritual infanticide"^^ For at Regensburg, in 1476 another trial 
on the blood accusation had begun as a coroUary to the one in 
Trento. The expert assistance of a converted Jew, with a command 
of Hebrew and Yiddish, would have persuaded Hinderbach, the 
prince-bishop, to discard those letters, and thereby spare himself 
embarrassment. It is precisely the fact that judges and notaries 
could neither understand nor correctly transcribe those phrases, 
pronounced in Hebrew or in Yiddish, suggests that they were 
authentic and not deliberately interpolated. 

Unless there is other evidence to show that those expressions 
did not constitute an intact fragment of the culture of the Trento 
accused, but something else instead, the problem persists; and it 
has numerous implications. I am not surprised, therefore, that 
only in rare cases has this problem been sincerely and directly 
addressed'^; instead, it has ali too often been glossed over. Now, 
in this rejoinder, I shall again propose it without ambiguities and 
circumlocutions. A problem such as this, which I believe to be 
of prime importance, cannot be resolved without serious and 
credible Instruments. 

Moreover, I have serious doubts that the tools employed 
by historians of law - experts on the Latin primary texts^^ but 
whoUy unfamiliar with Judaism and Jewish sources - are suffi- 
cient to construe the confessions of the Jews indicted in Trento. 
Knowledge of such sources, in fact, would have averted the error 
of mistaking for pseudo-Hebraic and satanic language, invented 
extempore by the judges, what were in fact anti-Christian formulas 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 27 

and curses long present in the synagogual liturgy of a minority 
group in the German Judaism of that time. The sterile endeavour 
to study the Jews without knowing Hebrew is like studying Ro- 
man law without knowing Latin, or investigating the mentality 
of the Italians while merely visiting Italy as a tourist with no 
understanding the language. Por historians of anti-Semitism this 
seems to be the obligatory route, at the end of which many Jews 
discern the possibility of acquiring an identity well accepted by 
those who matter. 

Anti-Semitic prejudice: the passive and resigned Jew 

In my book, I have sought to dispel another myth: that of the 
Jew as the sacrificial victim, defensive and passive, and whoUy 
resigned to his tragic fate. As we have seen, in response to the 
ferocious persecutions which had stained the valleys of the Rhine 
and the Maine with blood during the Crusades - but also in the 
foUowing centuries as a reaction to their Christian persecutors who 
wielded the cross as a weapon of oppression and violence - certain 
fringes of Ashkenazi Jews developed a virulent and unyielding 
anti-Christianism expressed, largely verbally, as vicious contempt, 
corrosive abuse, and liturgical invective. Furthermore, at least 
some of the German Jews did not resign themselves to Christian 
oppression; they were instead prepared to take revenge, with or 
without God's help. The forces ranged against each other were 
unequal, of course; but this did not discourage the persecuted 
Jews, even though they knew that the conflict's outcome was a 
foregone conclusion. 

Some years ago, a researcher and palaeographer at the Uni- 
versity of Tel Aviv, Philippe Ben Natan, wrote a long essay in 
Hebrew entitled "Blood Accusations, Murders and Politics in 
the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries: The Causes and Circum- 
stances". Ben Natan's thesis was well documented and certainly 

The fact that the bloody onslaught against the Jewish communities 
had sometimes provoked significant reaction made it plain to the Christian 
persecutors (or those about to become such) inhabiting the Rhine Valley 
and the surrounding territories that the revenge of the Jews was imminent. 
The derision and searing invective of the victims at the moment of their 
massacre, together with the curses of the survivors and their descend- 

28 Afterword 

ants in subsequent generations, left no doubt as to their determination 
to wreak vengeance on the alien and oppressive society that surrounded 
them [...]. Perhaps only stili unclear, regarding the image of the Jews and 
their vengeance, was how ferocious their vengeance would be. Did the 
Christians perhaps share modem beliefs concerning Jewish sensitivity and 
piety? [..,] Did the Christian persecutors perhaps bave reason to believe 
that the Jews, in exacting their revenge, would show compassion towards 
them? [...] Could the Christians bave hoped that the Jewish vengeance 
would not be relentless and unbearably cruel, and would not be unleashed 
against innocent victims as well? Judging from testimonies drawn from 
Jewish sources originating among the pietists of Germany and northern 
France, and brought to light by Jacob Katz some forty years ago, one has 
serious doubts that these questions can be answered in the affirmative. 
And such doubts are strengthened by the evidence on lesser-known social 
and moral features of the Ashkenazi Jewish community which bave been 
uncovered in recent years; evidence which reveals that a substantial number 
of Jews engaged in criminal activities. 

[...] The conclusion that we may draw, in light of the relationship with 
the circumstances, is that the blood libel was predictable. Moreover, that 
relationship suggests that the spread of the blood libel was inevitable. 

These highly contentious hypotheses advanced by Ben Natan 
precluded publication of bis essay in tbe Israeli bistorical journals, 
even tbougb it bad been refereed and approved by reputable 
scbolars. Tbis, tbougb, is bardly surprising'''. 

Again recently, Micbael Barilan, lecturer in tbe bistory of 
medicine at tbe University of Tel Aviv (as well as grandson 
of tbe founder of tbe Bar Ilan University), bas wondered wby 
"Jewisb bistorians, wbile tbey feel perfectly at ease in revealing 
monstrosities and criminal acts, real or alleged, perpetrated by 
medieval European civilization, appear loatb to accept any tbeory 
wbicb postulates, even merely by bypotbesis, tbe participation in 
crimes by tbe Jews of tbe Middle Ages, amid a Jewisb environ- 
ment imbued witb magic and superstition"^^. 

It is bigbly likely tbat tbe extremis! groups tbat I bave 
mentioned - wbicb conducted tbeir Jewisb festivals to com- 
memorate tbe tragedies wbicb tbey bad witnessed, or wbicb 
bad been banded down to tbem by memory - comprised crazed 
delinquents capable of savage killing rituals. Bernard Lazare, 
James Frazer, Cecil Rotb and Elliot Horowitz bave, at different 
times, bypotbesised or sustained tbe reality of tbis pbenomenon 
on tbe basis of beterogeneous documentation wbicb links it also 
to beterodox and eccentric celebrations of tbe Purim carnivaP''. 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 29 

Michael Pellivert stresses that this is not to accuse the Jewish 
people as a whole, but rather to accept an long-established 
matter of fact: namely, that there has never existed a people 
which has not had its monsters^'. Apparently of similar opinion 
is Umberto Eco, who has written a note on the issue: "The 
matter does not particularly perturb me, because in the course 
of the centuries there bave always been personages, of concern 
more to the history of psychiatry than to that of religion, who 
bave dedicated themselves to satanic cults of various sorts; [...]; 
it is therefore likely that Jewish criminal maniacs bave existed 
as well"^^. 

In Pasque di Sangue I bave certainly not sought to deny the 
differences between tormentors and tormented, nor to reverse 
their roles. Rather, I bave tried to show that those Ashkenazi 
Jews, having survived the traumas of massacres and forced bap- 
tisms, were determined to be no longer defenceless and pitiful 
holocaust victims. This resolve to resist and to react was conveyed 
into their harshly anti-Christian liturgy and rituals; and these also 
comprised, I believe, the magical and maleficent use of blood. 
But certainly not ritual murder, which remained an entirely 
Christian stereotype. But in this dialogue between persecutors 
and persecuted, also the Jews had a voice; and it was not always 
a voice smothered by tears. 

If anti-Semitism, if anti-Semitic stereotypes can live in the historio- 
graphical narrative, in the mental reconstruction of historians, as a history 
in and of itself; if indeed one can imagine the growth of a 'reservoir', of 
a sohdified, largely self-contained, stratified 'glacier' of stereotypes, and 
therefore of places of memory from which the terms of the polemic are 
extracted as though they were crystalhzations or archaeological finds: 
then one will have ceased to interpret the accusations against the Jews 
as a problem of communication between Jews and Christians which can 
give the Jews an opportunity to speak, and on the contrary one will have 
identified, from the beginning of the inquiry, Jews as subjects without a 
voice, as victims immobilized in their destiny of suffering". 

I entirely agree with this argument. And I therefore refuse to 
be consigned to the 'glacier' of anti-Semitic stereotypes, being 
told "what should be at the centre of a book on the theme of 
ritual murder: namely, Christian theological and narrative elabora- 
tion since the second and third centuries [...] of the myth of the 
destructive aggressiveness of a people that did not belong to the 

30 Afterword 

society of Christians"^'". I firmly believe, in fact, that the history 
of anti-Semitism is not the only practicable road to travel, side 
by side with the usuai fellow-travellers in whose eyes the Jews 
have reason to exist only as perpetually passive victims. 

A last consideration that I sought to emphasise in my hook 
was that the principles of Judaism do not always coincide with 
the real behaviours of Jews in flesh and blood; and that the 
practice - duly contextualized - often conflicts with the theory. 
However, the understandable pain of the rabbis in face of this 
sad truth should not induce us to emulate them by idealizing the 
reality, pretending that it faithfuUy reflects ideology and the norm. 
Writing about the history of the Jews is not like composing a 
sinagogual sermon with a battery of notes. Nor is it to celebrate 
always and inevitably the saints and martyrs of our people''^ 
For this reason, the work of historians is always difficult, and 
sometimes painful and thankless. 


' Y.H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor, Parma, 1983, p. 107. 

- See on this the discussions by S. Luzzatto, "La storia divisa", // Corriere 
della Sera, 26 February 2007; A. De Vincentiis, "Nella natura delle accuse il 
punto dolente della polemica", // Manifesto, 4 March 2007; R. De Mattei, 
"Ha ragione Ariel Toaff. Anche la tortura fa storia". Libero, 4 March 2007; 
F. Cardini, "Una vicenda editoriale che deve far riflettere", Toscana Oggi, 25 
March 2007. 

' Baer's romanticized account has been resumed by Haim Beinart, who 
places complete trust in inquisitional documents on the tight-knit network of 
the Marranos communities and their enduring faith in Judaism (see H. Beinart, 
"The Records of the Inquisition. A Source of Jewish and Converso History", 
in Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, II, 1967, no. 
11; Id., "La Inquisición y el problema de los conversos basta 1492", in ha 
Vida judia en Sefarad, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1992, pp. 43-62). On 
this stereotyped and nostalgie reconstruction of the religious life and aspira- 
tions of the Conversos propounded by Baer, Beinart and large part of modem 
Jewish historiogaphy, see the intelligent critique by Herman P. Salomon in 
the preface to the 4th edn. of the celebrated A History of the Marranos by 
Cecil Roth (New York, 1974). 

■• See in particular the recent edition of the hook in English by H.P. Salo- 
mon and I.S.D, Sassoon: A.J. Saraiva, The Marrano Factory. The Portuguese 
Inquisition and Its New Christians, Leiden, 2001. 

' On this polemic see in particular A.B. Lorence, "The Inquisition and 
the New Christians in the Iberian Peninsula. Main Historiographic Issues and 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 31 

Controversies", in The Sepharadi and Orientai jewish Heritage, Jerusalem, 
1982, pp. 13-72; D.M. Gitlitz, Secrecy andDeceit. The Religion ofCrypto-]ews, 
Philadelphia (Pa.), 1996. See also the recent fine hook by N. Wachtel, La fot 
du souvenir. Labyrinthes marranes, Paris, 2001, and the excellent introduction 
by C.B. Stuczynski to the Hebrew edn. of S. Schwarz, The Neiv-Christians in 
Vortugal in the 2Qth Century, Jerusalem, 2005. 

' In regard to the reactions to my book and the contradictory methodo- 
logical attitudes of IsraeU historiography, see the important article recently 
pubhshed by Yair Barak ("Mahalakh ben ha-tippot" [A path among the 
drops], Ha-Aretz, 2 Aprii 2007). 

^ See A. Foa, "Riti di sangue e accuse infondate", la Repubblica, 8 February 
2007; "I pericoli di un metodo analogico". Storicamente, 18 March 2007. 

** The discussion of this issue by De Vincentiis (Nella natura delle accuse 
il punto dolente della polemica, cit.) strikes me as particularly relevant. 

' See A. Prosperi, "Inquisizioni cristiane ed ebrei", in Atti dei Convegni 
Lincei n. 191: Le Inquisizioni cristiane e gli ebrei, Rome, 2003, pp. 7-28; Id., 
"L'Inquisizione romana e gli ebrei", in M. Luzzati (ed.), LTnquisizione e gli 
ebrei in Italia, Bari, 1994, pp. 67-120. 

'" See on this F. Cardini, Pasque di sangue. Il coraggio della storia, cit.; 
Id., "Storici, il paradigma censuiMo" , L'Avvenire, 28 February 2007; Id., "Una 
vicenda editoriale che deve far riflettere", cit. 

" See A. Cavaglion, "Iniziato male, finito peggio. Sul caso Toaff", Lo 
Straniero, 6 March 2007. 

'- See C. Ginzburg, "Pasque di sangue e sabba, miti ma non riti", Il 
Corriere della Sera, l'i February 2007. 

" This is what the zealous lawyer Massimo Introvigne ("Il caso Toaff. 
Torna l'accusa di sangue contro gli ebrei". Il Giornale, 12 February 2007) 
believes that he has demonstrated. Introvigne writes with ill-concealed malice 
in his review that "Toaff's thesis is nothing other than the 'Murray heresy' 
revised and applied to the blood accusation", concluding with the predictable 
reference to witchcraft trials: "one would also have to admit that the witches 
went to meet the devil astride their broomsticks". 

" Rokeach, Ms. Hebr. Bodleian, Oxford, no. 1103. See also J. Mulin 
Segai (Maharil), Sefer ha-minhaghim. The Book of the Customs, edited by Sh. 
Spitzer, Jerusalem, 1989, pp. 144-5; I. Ta-Shma in Efraim Talmage Memorial 
Volume, edited by D. Walfish, Haifa, 1993, pp. 85-98. 

'' See I. Yuval, 'Two Nations in Your Womb'. Perceptions of Jews and 
Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 144-5. My loyal yet criticai friend, Gadi Luz- 
zatto Voghera ("Un libro scomodo", in Laboratorio Alfa, 14 February 2007) 
reproaches me for claiming that, in the coUective mentality of these Ashkenazi 
Jews, "the Passover Seder had for some time been changed into a celebration 
in which the desire for the redemption of the people of Israel sprang from 
an aspiration to vengeance against the Christian persecutors, and from their 
malediction", judging it "apodictic and imprudent". I believe that this criticism 
can be rebutted in light of Yuval's corroborated studies on the matter. 

" See R. Di Segni, "Due nuove fonti sulle 'Toledot Jeshu" , La Rassegna 
Mensile di Israel, LV (1989), pp. 131-2. 

32 Afterword 

" I therefore dispute the misjudged remark by Kenneth Stow ("A Book 
Full of Sound and Fury", in Storicamente, 18 March 2007) that the Toledot 
Yeshu "is an old text, the motifs, hardly flattering, were possibly in place over a 
miUennium before Trent, nor was the book of a necessarily Ashkenazi origin". 
In fact, it is well-established that the motif of the Virgin impregnated during 
her menstrual period first appeared in the German manuscripts of the Toledot 
Yeshu produced in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. 

'** See R. Po-Chia Hsia, "The Truth About Trent", Ha-Aretz, 16 Febru- 
ary 2007: "During a November 2 interrogation, Israel, hanging on the rack, 
denounced the Christian faith [,..], Here, at last, is the kernel of truth in 
professor Toaff's convoluted argument: torture creates hatred!". 

'' See A. Shear, "Miscellany", in Tea, Lemon, Old Books, 5 March 2007. 

^^ See supra, p. 249 [234]. Henceforth, references to the text are ac- 
companied by indication in brackets of the corresponding pages in the first 
edition of Pasque di sangue. 

-' I regard as unjustified the criticisms brought against me on this point 
by Nicola Cusumano ("Ebrei e accuse di omicidio rituale: in margine a un 
libro di Ariel Toaff", in Mediterranea. Ricerche Storiche, IV, Aprii 2007, pp. 
141-52), who seems to claim that the use of (accurate) transcriptions of the 
trial documents is tantamount to endorsing Bonelli's anti-Semitism. 

^^ See D. Quaglioni and A. Esposito, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trent 
(1475-1478). I: 1 processi del 1475, Padua, 1990, p. 5. 

^' See F, Parente, "Il confronto ideologico tra l'ebraismo e la Chiesa in 
Italia", in Italia Judaica, I (1983), pp. 354-7. 

-^ See K. Stow, "A Book Full of Sound and Fury", cit.; D. Abulafia, 
"Blood Libels Are Back", The Times Literary Supplement, 28 February 2007; A. 
Prosperi, "E l'ebreo torturato confessa", La Repubblica, 10 February 2007. 

-' See R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475. A Ritual Murder Trial, New Haven 
(Conn.), 1992, pp. 92-3. 

^'' See. M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on the Late Medieval 
]ews, New Haven (Conn.), 1999, pp. 190-5. 

^^ See Eoa, Riti di sangue e accuse infondate, cit.; Ead., I pericoli di un 
metodo analogico, cit. 

^^ See supra, pp. 77-78 [75-76]. 

^' Starting with the phenomenon, not of suicides but the killing of children 
and disciples "for sanctification of God's name", that is, to prevent forced 
baptism, and in obvious conflict with the Torah\ prohibition on murder, H. 
Soloveitchik (Pawnbroking. A Study in the Inter-Relationship hetween Hala- 
khah, Economie Activity and Communal Self-Image, Jetusalem, 1985, p. 111). 
See also supra, pp. 108-109 [105-106]. 

'" See e.g. G. Busi, "Brutte sorprese a Pasqua", Il Sole 24 Ore, 11 February 
2007; R. Weinstein, "A Blood-Stained Version of History", Ha-Aretz, 8 March 
2007; Id., "Un'occasione perduta". Storicamente, 18 March 2007. 

'' See Prosperi, "E l'ebreo torturato confessa", cit. 

'2 See supra, pp. 61-62 [59-60]. 

" See supra, eh. V. See in particular note 16, p. 258. 

Triah and Historical Methodology. In Defence of «Pasque di sangue» 33 

^■* See on this chap. VI ("Magical and Therapeutic Blood"). 

^' D. Sperber (Minhaghe' Israel, pp. 59-65), drawing on previous studies 
by H. PoUack ijewish Folkways in Germanie Lands, 1648-1806, Cambridge, 
1971) and HJ. Zimmels (Magicians, Theologians and Doetors, London, 1952), 
paints a picture very similar to mine of the popular Jewish culture in Germany, 
and cites a broad range of texts on the widespread use of animai blood and 
mummified human bodies for therapeutic purposes. 

^"^ As David Abulafia and Gadi Luzzatto Voghera bave rightly pointed out, 
one cannot exclude that ointments and syrups with purportedly astounding 
therapeutic and magical effects, and with exotic and fantastic names (dragon 
blood, tiger balm), sometimes contained homely ingredients and were merely 
malodorous fakes. 

'' I believe that on this point I bave met the objections of Ruggero Taradel 
("L'accusa di sangue tra storia e leggenda", Morashah, 15 February 2007), a 
scholar whom I admire and whose authoritative studies concern the period 
foUowing to the one covered by my hook. 

'* On the dispensation for the consumption of "cooked blood", whose 
structure had been radically modified, besides the sources already cited in my 
Pasque di Sangue, see Y. Engel, Commentary on Talmud, Menachot Ila; I. 
Meir, Responso, Yoreh De'ah, see. 11, Tel Aviv, 1961, pp. 27-32. I thank rabbi 
Menachem Sreter of Jerusalem for kindly bringing these texts to my attention 
(written communication of 7 Aprii 2007). 

'' See Sperber, Minhaghe' Israel, p. 61. 

"» Seesupra, p. 105 [104]. 

"" R. S. Izchaki {Rashì) comm. a Talmud, Ketubot, par. 1; Tossafot a 
Talmud, Keritot 21b. 

« See TOpw, p. 107 [104]. 

"" E, Hildesheimer, "Consuming Forbidden Foods without Danger to 
Life". The essay was written as part of a Graduate Seminar on the theme of 
ritual murders at the department of Jewish History of Bar Ilan University. 

'*'' See supra, pp. 169-175 [166-171]; Yuval, "Two Nations in Your 
Womb", pp. 116-17. 

"•' See N. Coronel, "Chamishah kuntresim". Cinque fascicoli, Vienna, 
1864, e. 27a. 

""' Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb", p. 145. 

"'" See L.A. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood, Circumcision and Gender in 
Rabhinic ]udaism, Chicago (lU.), 1996, pp. 96-135; see. supra, pp. 150-151, 
186-188 [146-147]. 

■"* Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 92-4. 

'•'' "Ken ikkaretù kol oyevenu"; "talui Yeshu ha-min»; «le-cherpah we-liklimah 
la-talui Yeshu, kach yihye' le-chol soneenu"; "atta nizlavtà we-nidkartà ke-Yeshu 
ha-talui le-boshet we-liklimah ke-Yeshu" . Cf. supra, pp. 203-204 [195-196]. 

'° See Busi, "Brutte sorprese a Pasqua", cit. 

" See supra, pp. 85-86, 236 [83-84]. These letters are about to be pub- 
lished in transcription by Boris Kotlerman, of the Department of Yiddish 
Studies, Bar Ilan University. 

34 Afterword 

'^ See. M.G. Muzzarelli, "La cultura dei perseguitati. A proposito di 
Pasque di sangue", La Nazione, 12 February 2007. 

'' See. A. Esposito and D. Quaglioni, "Pasque di sangue. Le due facce 
del pregiudizio", Il Corriere della Sera, 11 February 2007. 

'** I thank Philippe Ben Natan for making his text available to me 
and for eiving me permission to make free use of it. The essay was 
discusseci by Professors Israel Yuval of the University of Jerusalem, 
Avi Gross of the Ben Gurion University of Be'er Sheva, and Simon 
Schwarzfuchs of Bar Ilan University. 

'' See. M. Barilan, "On Ritual Murders Then and Now", in Ynet, 16 Feb- 
ruary 2007. The same author has recently advanced an interesting hypothesis 
concerning the origin of the blood accusation which is also based on Jewish 
custom: in this case, the diffusion in medieval Jewish society of embryotomy, 
an operation judged morally dubious (see M. Barilan, "Abortion in Jewish 
Religious Law: Neighborly Love, Imago Dei the and a Hypothesis on the 
Medieval Blood Libel", Review of Rabbinic ]udaism, 8.1, Leiden, 2005). 

''' See B. Lazare, L'antisémitisme son histoire et ses causes, Paris, 1894, eh. 
XIII; J. Frazer, The Golden Bough, II edn. London, 1900, pp. 173-98 (trad. it. 
Il ramo d'oro. Studio sulla magia e la religione, Turin, 1991); C. Roth, "Feast 
of Purim and the Origins of Blood Accusations", Speculum, Vili (1933), pp. 
520-26; E. Horowitz, Reckless Rites. Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence, 
Princeton (N.J.), 2006. 

'' See M. Pellivert, "And Supposing They Did Drink Blood?, Ha-Aretz, 
20 February 2007. 

'^ See U. Eco, "Mangiar bambini", L'Espresso, 21 February 2007. 

'' See G. Todeschini, "Stereotipi antisemiti: il serbatoio e il ghiacciaio", 
Zakhor, II (1998), pp. 157-66. 

^ See Id., "Molta retorica, nessuna prova", la Repubblica, 9 February 2007. 

" Robert Bonfil, a zealous disciple of Haim Beinart, pursues this line of 
thought, adding an extra layer of vengeful malice: "Toaff's thesis [...] is an of- 
fence against the memory of the victims of torture, it furnishes ammunition for 
anti-Semites of every kind, including the deniers of the Shoah, and it nuUifies 
the seriousness of historical research and the legitimacy of our work through an 
arbitrary obfuscation of the boundary between truth and falsehood, between 
the admissible and the inadmissible" (see R. Bonfil, "Un'antica impostura 
riesumata", // Corriere della Sera, 13 February 2007; Id., "Questo testo, una 
tragedia", la Repubblica, 15 February 2007; Id., in The Jewish Chronicle, 16 
February 2007; Id., "What are They Worried about at Bar-Ilan University? 
Will They Decide to Sack Toaff?", Ha-Aretz, 6 March 2007). 

Copyright © 2008 by Società editrice il Mulino, Bologna. No part of this 
publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in 
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or 
otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. English translation 
by Adrian Belton.